08/14/2006 12:00AM

Twilight racing gets first tryout


An experiment with twilight racing, starting with Wednesday's opening-day program, is the most noticeable change on tap for Laurel Park's eight-day mini-meet, which marks the return of live racing to Maryland after a nine-week absence.

First post time has been set at 3:30 p.m. Eastern for the Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday cards during both weeks of action.

Laurel is permitted to offer twilight racing for the first time, thanks to a 15-year cross-breed simulcasting deal that was signed in April. As part of the agreement, Maryland's two harness tracks, Rosecroft Raceway and Ocean Downs, have waived the rule that prohibited any live Thoroughbred racing beyond 6:15 p.m.

"I have been encouraged by the positive response that we have received from both fans and horsemen," said Lou Raffetto, president and chief operating officer of the Maryland Jockey Club. "It is encouraging that many of the horsemen are looking forward to twilight

racing. This is a good opportunity to experiment with our program by trying something new."

Admission to the twilight cards will be free. The track also plans to offer weekday discounts on food and beverages, including two-for-one draft beer and dining specials.

"We are always looking for ways to improve our business and try to create new fans," Raffetto said. "We are hopeful that the later start on weekdays will enable individuals to come out and spend a few hours at the track after work or possibly enjoy dinner or one of our other promotions."

The meet features a pair of statebred stakes races for 3-year-olds - the Twixt on Saturday and the Deputed Testamony on Sunday. First post for the two weekend cards will be 1:10 p.m.

The meeting ends Friday, Aug. 25. Maryland racing then shifts to Timonium for the eight-day state fair meet. The 17-week Laurel fall meeting begins Wednesday, Sept. 6.

Wednesday's opening-day nine-race card includes three turf races. The best betting event is the seventh, a five-furlong grass sprint for filly and mare optional claimers.

The race attracted a full field of 14, plus two also-eligibles and one horse entered for the main track only.

Scott Lake, who had 58 winners to lead all trainers at Laurel's winter-spring meet, has the horses with the fastest recent Beyer Speed Figures in turf sprints, with his uncoupled entry of To the Crowd and Majestic Slewville.

The live longshot could be Ten Halos, a 3-year-old filly who ran second with an 82 Beyer in her turf debut last time out.